Shelf Life
Mobile Suit Gundam Part 2

by Paul Jensen, Gabriella Ekens,

I spent most of this past weekend stuck in bed with a cold, but I did at least get a valuable life lesson out of the experience. While reading manga can be a good way to kill time, think twice before opening a volume of Monster Musume when you've got a fever. It'll give you some seriously weird, Kafkaesque dreams. Now that I've filled all your heads with nightmarish monster girl visions, welcome to Shelf Life.

Before we jump into this week's giant pile of new releases, I should mention that I somehow missed a couple of titles last week. The Princess and the Pilot and Yuruyuri season 2 both came out with new standard editions to complement their older collector's editions, and they start at $30 and $55 respectively. I'm not sure how these two managed to slip by unnoticed, but my apologies to fans of airborne royalty and/or perpetually idle schoolgirls.

Jump to this week's review:
Mobile Suit Gundam Part 2

On Shelves This Week

Akame ga Kill - Collection 1 BD, DVD, Collector's Edition
Sentai - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.98|$59.98|$129.99
Currently cheapest at: $45.49 Right Stuf|$38.99 Right Stuf|$84.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After setting out for Imperial City in search of a way to make money, Tatsumi gets involved with a revolutionary group called Night Raid. In order to fight against an oppressive regime, the rebels will have to use a set of legendary and dangerous weapons called Imperial Arms.

Extra: You'll find episode reviews of this popular action series here. It's available streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.

IGPX Immortal Grand Prix - The Complete Stage DVD
Eastern Star - 1144 min - Hyb - MSRP $69.95
Currently cheapest at: $44.99 Amazon

Synopsis: Team Satomi makes their way to the top level of the Immortal Grand Prix, a futuristic sport that combines racing and mecha battles. The upstart team has plenty of talent, but they'll also need teamwork to defeat their rivals.

Extra: This set has run into a handful of delays, but it looks like it's finally coming out this week. IGPX ran on Cartoon Network here in the States back in 2005, and the dub cast features some unusually big-name actors. No official reviews, but our user ratings average out around 6.9.

Lord Marksman and Vanadis - The Complete Series BD+DVD, Limited Edition
Funimation - 325 min - Hyb - MSRP $64.98|$84.98
Currently cheapest at: $47.03 Barnes and Noble|$63.74 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After being sent into battle against a powerful female general, Count Tigre is captured and becomes a prisoner of war. He must convince his captors to help him save his homeland.

Extra: We've got episode reviews of this self-proclaimed fantasy/fanservice hybrid here. You can stream it on Funimation and Hulu.

Pokemon: The First Movie DVD
Viz - 85 min - Dub - MSRP $14.98
Currently cheapest at: $12.72 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: Ash, Brock, and Misty are lured to a remote island where they must face off against the genetically engineered Mewtwo and an army of Pokemon.

Extra: Oh, man, here's a blast from the past (1999 to be exact). I remember being one of countless elementary school kids who were unbelievably excited for this movie. We've got a very old review here, and you can stream the movie on the Pokemon website.

Pokemon 2000 - The Movie DVD
Viz - 80 min - Dub - MSRP $14.98
Currently cheapest at: $12.99 Amazon

Synopsis: In an attempt to capture a legendary Pokemon, a greedy collector starts a battle that threatens the safety of the world. Ash must stop the fighting with help from Lugia.

Extra: I remember the plot of the first movie surprisingly well, but the only thing thing I can recall about this one is that I made my grandparents take me to see it at the movie theater. No review for this one, but it's available streaming on the Pokemon website as well.

Pokemon 3 - The Movie
Viz - 90 min - Dub - MSRP $14.98
Currently cheapest at: $12.72 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: Ash and friends encounter the mysterious Unown Pokemon, which have the ability to turn thoughts and emotions into reality, after Ash's mother is kidnapped by the legendary Pokemon Entei.

Extra: All right, I admit that I don't remember this one at all. It's possible that I never saw it, but take a wild guess as to where I could watch it and find out.

Pokemon: The Movies 1-3 Collection BD
Viz - 255 min - Dub - MSRP $39.99
Currently cheapest at: $34.29 Barnes and Noble

Synopsis: This set collects the three Pokemon movies listed above on Blu-Ray.

Extra: Since I am now completely out of personal anecdotes related to the Pokemon movies, I'll use this space to tell you all that my original starter Pokemon was Charmander, and I still have my Blue game cartridge. Now you know.

Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers Part 2 [Collector's Edition] BD+DVD
Ponycan - 96 min - Sub - MSRP $89.98
Currently cheapest at: $71.98 Right Stuf

Synopsis: When the Seven Braves decide that one of them must be a traitor, suspicion falls on Adlet. In order to prove his innocence, he must find a way to bring down the barrier that's preventing them from accomplishing their mission.

Extra: We've got episode reviews here and a review of the first part here. You can watch this series online on Crunchyroll.

Shirobako - Collection 1 BD, DVD
Sentai - 300 min - Sub - MSRP $59.98|$49.98
Currently cheapest at: $38.99 Right Stuf|$32.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After working together on an animated film in high school, five friends vow to work together again after becoming professionals in the anime industry. They must overcome a variety of challenges in pursuit of their dreams.

Extra: I adore this show, possibly because I'm an anime fan who's worked on student films and TV shows. Episode reviews are here, we've got a feature article on the show here, and it's streaming on Crunchyroll, Hulu, and The Anime Network.

Tokyo Ghoul - Complete Season [Collector's Edition] BD+DVD
Funimation - 300 min - Hyb - MSRP $129.98
Currently cheapest at: $84.49 Right Stuf

Synopsis: After surviving an encounter with a flesh-eating Ghoul, Ken becomes a half-human, half-Ghoul hybrid and must learn to live in a shadowy world of supernatural monsters.

Extra: While the other versions of this collection came out a while ago, the big collector's box was delayed until now. You'll find reviews here and here, and it's streaming on Funimation and Hulu.

Shelf Life Reviews

Gabriella reviewed the first half of Mobile Suit Gundam a while back and felt that it held up well. Will the same be true for the second half of the classic mecha series?

In this latter half of one of the most iconic anime of all time, Amuro Ray continues to pilot the Gundam against the rebellious Principality of Zeon. While he stumbled into this role by accident, his piloting skills are unparalleled, and the White Base's crew has come to accept Amuro as both a comrade and a friend. After a brief period of disillusionment, Amuro has recommitted to fighting for the Earth Federation. However, the situation is complicated by the fact that Char Aznable – a legendary Zeon soldier and rogue agent working towards the royal family's demise – has come to view Amuro as a personal rival. He's solicited help from a mysterious woman, Lalah Sune, who holds power as a “newtype” – the next stage in human evolution. How will Lalah's presence and the emergence of “newtype” affect the conflict's outcome? And how much more will our heroes lose in the struggle for peace?

Apparently, Mobile Suit Gundam was initially planned to be significantly longer than it ended up being. You can tell by the end - many of the show's most iconic moments (Lalah Sune, Char vs. Amuro, the confrontations with the remaining three Zabis) are crammed into the final ten episodes. However, I think that this more rapid pacing actually improves the show. I'd say that the episodes in the mid twenties to early thirties are the weakest part of the entire series. That's not to say that they don't have great moments (highlights include Amuro's relationship with Lieutenant Matilda and Kai's with the spy Mahiru), but they're Mobile Suit Gundam at its most aimless and repetitive. It picks up, however, as soon as Lalah is introduced, and our heroes are set on the path towards their final confrontation against Zeon. The character melodrama also intensifies. In some ways it's rushed. For example, Char and Amuro's famous rivalry turns out to be based on their shared, tragic love for a woman who's introduced 3/4ths of the way through the series. Personally, I prefer these rapid-fire theatrics to the barrage of dubiously plot-relevant battles we get in the middle. While the first half of this release is Mobile Suit Gundam at its most interminable (something not helped by the awful point where the first set cuts off – if it's been a while, I recommend watching the last episode of the first set before jumping into this one) the second half is the show at its most exciting, a series of explosive character confrontations and action set pieces.

As a first time viewer, I continue to be surprised by how brutal Mobile Suit Gundam can be. This probably stems from the fact that I'm used to the more polished, conventionally optimistic coming-of-age stories that the genre has developed into over time. It might be the result of the rushed ending, but the characters lose overwhelmingly more than they gain from their experiences throughout the show. Here, our teenaged protagonist becomes a man via repeated traumatization in a conflict that he's only minimally invested in. He leaves it estranged from both of his parents, down several lovers, and weighed down by many deaths. His rival, meanwhile, emerges unscathed from the revenge-fueled slaughter of an entire family. Four different love interests are introduced only to be killed off shortly afterwards. I'm sure that the dramatic cycle of hubris and comeuppance continues in subsequent series, but for now, our remaining heroes emerge with only abstract victories and their lives. Mobile Suit Gundam characterizes growing up as hardening oneself in the face of repeated disillusionment and loss. (Cue World War II reading.) Personally, I find the depressing origins of one of anime's oldest genres fascinating. The years have ground this type of story down into something more palatable and reassuring, but the source is raw, both aesthetically and emotionally.

As you'd expect for a television production from this time, animation is limited, but there are some great moments and fantastic draftsmanship. Mobile Suit Gundam's locales and designs are iconic with good reason – they echo throughout anime as a whole. (I wonder if the image of Amuro's soul girlfriend melting into yellow goo struck a cord with Hideaki Anno?) I was also tickled to learn that mecha have had stupid names from the very beginning (Zaku, Gelgoog, Braw Bro), and that their crazy modern appellations aren't just the products of a crowded field. The Blu-Ray's quality is equivalent to the first half's release, meaning better than the show has never looked on home video. The colors are sharp, showing off the show's stark, often expressionistic palette. The lineart is also clear, which is especially important since many of the show's best visuals are impressive drawings first and foremost. I discussed the audio in the previous review, and not much has changed. As a reminder, both the sub and dub are listenable, although prepare for some cheesiness from the English track. The sole extra is a 25-minute interview with members of the original production, including Yoshiyuki Tomino. It's good, but most of the information is already available in Gundam's extremely comprehensive online fan resources.

Nearly forty years after its creation, Mobile Suit Gundam absolutely holds up for new viewers. They'd need to tolerate some crusty visuals and strange deviations from what's now an established formula, but the first installment in the Universal Century remains a gripping adventure story with likeable characters and strong thematics. I can see why this became a hit – episodes are propulsive, and it's hard to stop after just one. It's easy to forget that Mobile Suit Gundam runs for a fairly imposing 42 episodes. (There were originally 43, but one, Cucuruz Doan's Island, was removed from the first volume at Tomino's request.) In both its conventionalities and eccentricities, Mobile Suit Gundam stands as a fun and fascinating piece of history.

I'm out of Shelf Obsessed entries to show off, so that wraps it up for this week's column. If you've got a collection that you'd like to share with the world, or if you sent stuff in and I somehow missed it, send me your photos at [email protected] Thanks for reading, and come on back next week!

discuss this in the forum (21 posts) |
bookmark/share with: short url

Shelf Life homepage / archives